The 2019 season came to a close on Sunday night as the world watched the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 to win their first Super Bowl in 50 years. While most of the NFL world has already moved onto the business of retooling, rebuilding, and preparing for the 2020 season, there’s still an opportunity to reflect on some of the individual performances from the 2019 season and how the Dallas Cowboys stacked up against their peers.
Yesterday, Pro Football Focus released their top 101 players from the 2019 season and 5 Dallas Cowboys made the list. Right Guard Zack Martin, Right Tackle La’el Collins, Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, and Quarterback Dak Prescott were among Pro Football Focus’ top 101 players from last season.
Their criteria for selection focused strictly on how players performed during the 2019 season attempted to treat all positions equally and factored in the postseason, which could be the reason for some players getting a bump they might not have otherwise if they were sitting at home during the playoffs.
From the Dallas Cowboys, Zack Martin was the highest ranked, coming in at 35 on the list. Only two guards were ranked higher than Martin for the 2019 season; The Philadelphia Eagles’ Brandon Brooks and the Indianapolis Colts Quenton Nelson. It was yet another excellent season for Martin who was selected to the All-Pro’s 1st team for the fourth time in his six seasons.
Collins is finally getting the respect he deserves after being left off of the All-Pro teams and the Pro Bowl rosters. He had arguably the best season of any player on the Cowboys offensive line and though he may not have received the postseason awards that his contemporaries did, he was the fifth tackle in PFF’s 101 at number 41 overall. That’s quite a statement for a player that many thought would be out the door this offseason before he was surprisingly signed to a long-term contract just before the 2019 season.
Though DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t have the sack numbers Cowboys Nation had grown accustomed to in the previous two years, he was still as disruptive as ever. Lawrence comes in at number 55 on the list and the 12th best edge defender primarily because of his efforts creating pressure and defending the run. Many will argue that Robert Quinn had a better season than Lawrence because he had far more sacks, but Lawrence’s all-around game makes him one of the best EDGE players in the NFL today sacks or not. It’s hopeful that Lawrence is able to rediscover the double-digit sack numbers that saw helped him become one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL, but his lack of sacks shouldn’t take away from the tremendous 2019 season he had.
Coming in at number 64, Amari Cooper was the eighth wide receiver to be ranked on the list. Only Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and Terry McLaurin, were ranked higher than Cooper after another excellent season for the Dallas Cowboys. Amari Cooper played through injuries for pretty much the entirety of the 2019 season and still managed more than 1,100 yards and averaged more than 15 yards per reception while leading the Dallas Cowboys in touchdown receptions. Entering a contract year, there should be very little doubt about Cooper’s ability to replicate the production he’s had with Dak Prescott at quarterback over the last year and a half.
Speaking of Dak Prescott, he’s the fifth member of the Dallas Cowboys to be ranked on the PFF 101 list. At number 93 overall, Prescott was the number nine among quarterbacks. In 2019, Prescott had the best year of his career throwing for 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards while finishing in the top five in QBR. Dak Prescott is set to receive one of the highest quarterback contracts in the NFL this offseason. While people can debate where Prescott figures into the quarterback rankings, pretty much every measure has him as at the very least a top 10 quarterback in the NFL and by many measures, he’s a top-five player at the position. Only Russell Wilson, Pat Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, and DeShaun Watson ranked higher than Dak Prescott did on the 101 list. And while you can make an argument that Prescott had a better 2019 regular season than several of these quarterbacks, their appearances in the postseason certainly helped to give them a boost. Regardless, Prescott continues to trend upwards in the eyes of many and with a new coaching staff should see his name climb the rankings in 2020.
It’s a bit surprising to not see Ezekiel Elliott’s name on the list, but we’ve seen Pro Football Focus downplay his effectiveness as a player in years past. Perhaps they simply have a different way of valuing running backs than most others do. Certainly, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb are deserving of their place on the 101, but a guy like Austin Ekeler, who was tremendous in the early part of the year was relegated to committee work when Melvin Gordon returned. As good a season as rookie Josh Jacobs had for the Oakland Raiders, he wasn’t better than Ezekiel Elliott was in 2019.
These kinds of lists are rarely perfect and you can always find ways to poke holes in them, but it’s a list that’s worth checking out. The biggest thing to takeaway from this list is that the Dallas Cowboys still have a ton of talent heading into 2020. Though they disappointed in 2019, there’s a lot to be optimistic about moving forward.